Monday, May 27, 2013

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Rereading The Great Gatsby as an adult, far removed from those high school days, was a real eye-opener. I know this was one of those books read in a Sunday afternoon (we didn't have NFL football on TV back in the day) to get it done quickly. How sad that such a wonderful book may not be appreciated by youth. Fitzgerald's command of the English language, the symbolism, and understanding of human drama are so wonderfully crafted in this "American Novel."

The plot line is one known to almost all who have passed through high school English classes and those who have seen the numerous screen adaptations. It is Nick Carraway's description of lives of Tom and Daisy Buchannan, Myrtle and Tom Wilson, Jordan Baker, and Jay Gatsby. The novel affords a look at the contrasting lives of the noveau riche, the old money, life in the ash heap and the transformative powers as the characters interact with one another. Gatsby, in love with Daisy since before her marriage to Tom, is intent on living the American Dream that will include wealth, prestige, and Daisy.  However, in a time of decadence and opulence, this dream becomes unattainable. Fitzgerald decries what easy money has done to the once esteemed individualism and morality that was America. He embeds symbolism in the book that, upon careful reading, clearly defines what life in America has become - the green light at the end of the Buchannan dock, the valley of ashes, and the ever-present eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg. 

Maybe I understood at the time the importance of The Great Gatsby, or at least enough to be able to use it as I wrote and AP exam, but a life's worth experiences certainly brings a deeper understanding to it. Fitzgerald was 28 when he penned this book, but he writes as if much older and leaves us with one of the most memorable closing lines in all of literature. 
 “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

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